It turns out the comeback kids are pretty good in front, too.
Jeff Carter gave the Los Angeles Kings their first lead in over 229 minutes, Drew Doughty and Mike Richards added insurance, and Jonathan Quick shut the door with 32 saves in a 3-0 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.
L.A. now leads the series, 3-0, an advantage that has proved almost always insurmountable in the Stanley Cup final in the past.
After winning the Game 2 comeback thriller in double overtime—a record third straight postseason win after trailing by two goals—the Kings stressed getting off to a better start.
Dustin Brown, via ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, put it best:
The mentality of our team is very black and white. We've been missing that in the first period. Again, in saying that, our mentality, it allows us to stay in games and to kind of turn the tide over the course of the game, has allowed us to come back. We have to get back to it at the start of games.
It took 19 minutes and 59.3 seconds, but they were finally able take a lead with hockey still to be played. With time winding down in the first period, Carter beat both the clock and Henrik Lundqvist to make it 1-0 just before the first intermission.
New York wasn't without its opportunities. Mats Zuccarello missed a golden one at the doorstep, and the Rangers created a couple of other solid chances. But those are the breaks sometimes—a common theme this series, as National Football Post's Joe Fortenbaugh argued:
The Rangers continued to play well in the second period, but once again, it was the Kings getting the right bounce at the right time.
With Marc Staal in the penalty box for high-sticking Alec Martinez, Doughty took advantage on the power play, putting away his sixth goal of the playoffs.
Much like the first goal, it seemed to take an unlucky deflection off a Rangers player. Even noted Kings fan Wil Wheaton admitted the Blueshirts' lack of fortune:
For the third game in a row in this series, it was 2-0. The first two worked in favor of the trailing home team, and the Rangers looked intent on repeating recent history.
While they went on the advantage and created a slew of tremendous chances, though, they just couldn't solve Quick. The 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner was unbeatable, turning away everything that came his way, including several in spectacular fashion.
Sports Illustrated's NHL Twitter feed applauded his play after an especially transcendent penalty kill:
The Rangers racked up three power plays and 17 shots on goal in the second period but came away with a zero in the goal column. And to make matters worse, Richards buried a late two-on-one chance, making it 3-0 before the second intermission.
New York had more opportunities on the power play in the third period but continued to be thwarted by the workman-like effort from the Kings. As the New York Post's Zach Braziller noted, the inability to capitalize on advantages was reminiscent of an earlier postseason stretch:
Lundqvist was pulled with just over four minutes remaining, but nothing came of it as Los Angeles finished off the comprehensive performance.
If there is some tiny silver lining out there for the Blueshirts, it's that they were in position to win both games in L.A., and they were done in by a few unlucky bounces Monday night. They haven't been as badly outplayed as most teams down 3-0.
There are no moral victories, though. The reality: They are down 3-0 against a Kings team that has proved to be mentally strong and won't take its foot off the gas.
Simply winning Game 4 on Wednesday and getting back to Los Angeles has to be the goal now for the Rangers, but it doesn't look like anything will stop the Kings from raising the Cup for the second time in three seasons.
Not even a lead in regulation.
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